If you go to a Curricular Alignment community meeting - and I encourage you to go - the question you should be asking is this one:
"We've tried this before without success. How will it be different this time?"
There are four necessary supports for curricular alignment which are NOT in place. The people who are responsible for curricular alignment do not have control over these elements, so they can't make them happen. We have tried for years without success to establish these four necessary supports, but have never been able to realize them. So the central questions to curricular alignment will be "What will be different this time that allows us to do what we have never been able to do before?"
How can we be sure that the students are learning the curriculum? If students who are working below grade level do not get any intervention, then they will not be ready and able to succeed with the grade level curriculum. There will be no vertical alignment for them. They will continue to just get passed along and they won't do any better. Where are the interventions needed to make curricular alignment successful? You will be told that the District is working on them, but they are NOT in place. Without them, Curricular Alignment is doomed. Note that we have always needed these interventions. Needing these interventions is nothing new, yet we have not been able to reliably provide them. What has changed that assures us that we will be able to reliably do what we have never been able to do before? There will be references to the MAP testing to identify the under-performing students. Okay, good. But how can we be assured that the identified students will get the necessary services?
How can we be assured that the teachers are teaching the curriculum? If the teachers choose not to teach the curriculum then the whole effort is a non-starter. Where is the assurance that the teachers will teach the curriculum? You will be told that principals are supposed to observe classes and confirm that the curriculum is getting covered. Okay, good, but haven't principals always been responsible for that, yet they haven't actually been able to make it happen. You will be told that the MAP testing will reveal whether the curriculum has been covered. That's a start, but where's the effective action that creates the change following the collection of the data? The teachers, I suppose, could get less favorable evaluations, but so what? Is any teacher actually going to get fired or get paid less as a consequence of not teaching the curriculum? And, in the absence of these consequences, what has changed that assures us that teachers will teach to the curriculum?
How can we be assured that the teachers know what to do and how to do it? Will the teachers know the Standards? Will the teachers know how to differentiate instruction? Will the teachers know how to scaffold for students working below grade level? Will the teachers know how to stretch and accelerate for students working beyond grade level? Will the teachers know how to do both of these at the same time in the same classroom of thirty students? Where is that assurance that the teachers will know what they are supposed to be teaching? You will be told that there will be professional development. That's good, but we have had years and years of professional development on the Standards and on differentiation and none of it has been effective. What has changed that will make this professional development successful when all of the previous professional development has failed? And if we knew how to make the professional development effective, why haven't we done that before?
The focus is on college-readiness and getting students into college-prep courses. Where is the assurance that all of the schools - middle and high schools - will offer these advanced classes? Will the District require schools to provide access to some set of required classes including honors classes, advanced classes, and, at the high schools, AP and IB classes? Where is the assurance that college-prep classes will be available at all schools? You will be told that the District is working on this, but surely the District has been working on this for years and we still are not there. What has changed that will suddenly make the District able to guarantee access to advanced classes? How can they reconcile that assurance with the fact that the middle schools no longer allow students to take the highest level of math that they used to offer? The District is REDUCING access to that class - despite assurances that they would not.
And then, the biggest question of all, when the District fails to deliver authentic curricular alignment due to the failure to provide one or more of these necessary supports, where is the assurance that they won't substitute standardization for alignment in an effort to emulate alignment? How do know that they won't go all totalitarian (Bellevue style) in an effort to force it?